The Massachusetts Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies and the UMass Stockbridge School of Agriculture are co-sponsoring the development of two new vegetable gardens at the Renaissance Center at 650 East Pleasant St., Amherst, MA.  Several Five College students have been selected to participate in the first phase of this project, which will be research into the vegetable gardening practices in English cottage gardens during two periods;

  1. the late Middle Ages (14th & 15th centuries – prior to Columbus), and
  2. the 16th century (or the period after the Columbian Exchange of plants from the Americas to England). 

The students will conduct research into the diet, vegetable plants commonly grown, standard growing practices (fertility, planting, pest management), and sources for seeds of heirloom plants.  During the spring semester, students will be invited to help with garden design and implementation of the gardens.

These two gardens will demonstrate the impact of the Columbian Exchange (mostly the movement of New World plants to Europe) on the vegetable plants commonly grown in English gardens as well as provide an example of  how peasant families of the time sustained a healthy diet without modern technology or supermarkets. 

Students will submit a final report at the end of the semester.  During the semester they will file weekly updates on their individual pages.

Questions or comments may be posted to the blog page and additional information may be sent to Dr. John M. Gerber, Professor in the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at

Organizing Committee

  • John Gerber, Stockbridge School
  • Alison Kiraly, Renaissance Center
  • Ellen Kosmer, Renaissance Center